- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 773 KB
- Print Length: 178 pages
- Publisher: Crossway (2 Mar. 2011)
- Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B004Q9TS9A
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- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #712,480 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Overall it is an enjoyable book as long as you are not looking for a detailed, chronological history of the Fathers and their works.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Haykin is a Patristics scholar par excellence and this volume brings his writings back to a subject area so precious to him. The introduction and the conclusion make reading the book imperative for any thoughtful Christian. His pilgrimage with the Fathers is something of an encouragement and challenge to us all as we seek to live out the historic Christian faith with our ancestors. Especially helpful is how Haykin lays out important and practical reasons for studying the Fathers that most of us would not have considered.
The main bulk of the book is chapters on particular Fathers treating particular issues in Christian thinking and practice (most of the chapters have appeared elsewhere). To those who are widely read in significant Christian theology or in Patristics these chapters are welcome additions from an Evangelical perspective on key issues. Yet, for those average Christian these chapters would be difficult to read and focus upon as they are fairly technical. If Haykin wants us in the church to learn to love and appreciate the Fathers then I would argue perhaps he should identify that his book is really written for pastors and scholars. Yet, the issues that are treated in it are imperative to have a firm understanding of. Ignatius of Antioch's thinking on martyrdom, apologetics from the Letter to Diognetus, hermeneutics with Origen, the Lord's Supper with Cyprian and Ambrose, holiness and the Spirit from Basil of Casesarea, and the missionary piety of Patrick are all important things to consider. Yet, the language and details offered put this book out of reach of most average Christians.
The other weakness of the book is the Fathers that Haykin leaves out. Interestingly, in his appendix on a guide to reading the Fathers, Haykin talks about reading Augustine, The Odes of Solomon, Hilary, Athansius, and Gregory of Nyssa. None of these were dealt with directly in the book. It is a shame that Haykin asks us to read the works of those that we might be unfamiliar with and does not introduce us to them through his book. Would not it have been better then to treat these as well if he wants us to become familiar with the Fathers? In the opinion of this reviewer, two monumental Fathers were left out of the main section of the book and it is virtually unforgivable: Augustine and Athanasius. No book seeking to introduce us to the value of the Fathers should leave out these two men.
Now, this is not to say the book is without value. If you are patient and read thoughtfully you will glean fantastic material that will challenge your mind and warm your heart and motivate your hands to serve God more faithfully. We have much to learn from those who have gone before us and those willing to mine the details that Haykin presents will not be disappointed. But, if you are looking for a basic introduction to the Fathers from an Evangelical perspective, I would not recommend Haykin. Instead I would recommend Bryan Litfin's helpful, "Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction". In it he surveys the life, thinking, and major contributions of the major Fathers including Augustine and Athansisus and includes reading recommendations and study questions for each Father. Now, if you want to move further than an introduction, then Haykin is where you should turn, but for the novice looking to study the Fathers, Litfin is a better introduction.
So, while Haykin is a dear friend and I think his book makes a wonderful contribution to Patristics, it is not for those looking for a basic introduction to the Fathers. But, again, for those who want to mine the riches of the Fathers that Haykin does address, it is worth every penny.
The reader will find out fascinating details about each Church father throughout the book. Origen, for example, wrote close to 300 commentaries alone. Ignatius wrote 7 letters to the Roman church, but only one was dated.
The two best chapters in the book are the ones on Origen and Basil of Caesarea.
Haykin spends almost half of the chapter on Basil describing his fight to defend the deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit. We also learn how important humility was to Basil.
The author reminds us that we need to study the early Church fathers so that we can better identify and confront our prejudices, better understand the Bible, and better understand the whole Christian life.
An outstanding book for anyone wanting to get more acquainted with some of the early heroes of the Church.
Rediscovering the Church Fathers is a very well written book intended to reacquaint the Christian Church with the early exegetes of Scripture. We pastors and laypeople have a tendency to pick up commentaries that are written by modern day theologians (modern being from the 1800 to present day) to help us better understand scripture.
But we have a tendency to ignore those writers from the early 1st century through the 8th century. These works have been translated and made available in several volumes that make up the larger work known as the Nicene Fathers and the Anti-Nicene Fathers.
One of the Haykin's premises is that when we have ignored the early church Fathers even though they "can provide us with a map for the Christian life." He uses the illustration that we would not try to sail from New York to London across the Atlantic without some navigational guides. We often use guides that were written by the early explorers and take them as "gospel." So, why don't we take the early writings of the Church Fathers and give them the weight of value that they deserve?
Most likely we don't read them because we believe that they will be hard to read, hard to understand and that they won't understand our culture because they wrote at a time when life was totally different.
But as Haykin points out these early writers were giving us insight into the scriptures during a time of great persecution of the church. They personally knew the men and women that were being martyred for the faith. Many of the martyrs were their students. So, who better to give us insight into scripture knowing that their stand against the Greeks and the Romans could very much cost them their lives.
An interesting fact that Haykin points out is that many of these writers were having to answer the questions of other scholars as to why this "New Teaching" of Christians should be listened to. The Greeks and Roman scholars believe that if the writing or thoughts were ancient they must be true, but if they were new they must be suspect.
So, given the fact that today we have people who question the validity of the Scriptures and their relevancy we will find a common bond with the Early Church Fathers because they were wrestling with that same issue even in the 1st and 2nd century after Christ death.
The early Church Fathers looked as Martyrdom as a Gift of the Spirit. Ignatius wrote as he awaited death for espousing the Gospel, "Earthly longings have been crucified and in me there is left no spark of desire for mundane things, but only a murmur of living water that whispers within me, 'Come to the Father.' He truly understood that the things of this world are worthless when put into the perspective of what Christ suffered and what He calls his followers to do.
After an introductory chapter regarding why we should read the early Church Fathers Haykin goes on in the next chapters to introduce us to some very key writers. Chapters include background and details about;
Ignatius of Antioch
Origen, nicknamed Adamantius "Man of Steel"
Cyprian and Ambrose of Alexandria
Basil of Caesarea
and the Mission of Patrick
If these names don't sound familiar that's because we have neglected to read about the early history of the church.
This work is a great primer for the early Church Fathers. It ignited in me a desire to dig deeper into the writings of these early Church Fathers, The Patristics as they are known.
So, how do I start? Well Haykin answers that question. In Appendix #1 he gives you "A Beginners Guide to Reading the Fathers." This short appendix is a great summation of the book and gives you the tools to start into a deeper study.
If you are unfamiliar with the early Patristics this book will wet your appetite. If you are familiar with them but have been ignoring them because you want to read works from modern commentators, this book will wet your appetite to get back into reading the early writings.
The year is early, but this book is right now my #1 recommendation for the year. It might not stay there, but it will take a pretty good book coming in the future to knock it from the top slot for this year.
Path: Haykin pieces together various articles written on the fathers and their thoughts. Generally speaking, the author addresses martyrdom, apologetics, hermeneutics, ordinances, sanctification, and missions from various perspectives.
Sources: Written as articles which have been modified for a more general audience, these chapters are footnote heavy. This is helpful if you are doing any research on a particular topic found within the TOC.
Agreement: I appreciated the earnestness which the author has in presenting the Fathers as required reading. I found his chapters enlightening and helpful. I was spiritually challenged by the men he presented.
Disagreement: The book was not as enjoyable to read as I was hoping, and I don’t mean “dumbed down.” It read as a reworked scholarly paper. Those are helpful, and I thank God for men who write them, but that is not necessary for an “Introduction.” There were way to many, “as the scholar_____ says…” to make it enjoyable.
Also, the formatting for the kindle edition was awful.
Personal App: I thank God for godly men throughout the ages who he has used to shape who I am today.
Favorite Quote: “Thus, Basil asks in his Long Rules 7, in which he is making the case for coenobitic monasticism: How will he show his humility, if there is no one with whom he may compare and so confirm his own greater humility? How will he give evidence of his compassion, if he has cut himself off from association with other persons? And how will he exercise himself in long-suffering, if no one contradicts his wishes?” (pp. 109-110)
It would be worth consulting at another time and I would recommend it to someone who:
was interested in one of the Church Fathers mentioned in the TOC
Other books along this same theme would be:
Wilken, Robert Louis. The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God. Yale University Press, 2005.
Michael Haykin is Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. He has written Rediscovering the Church Fathers for the very purpose of reacquainting Evangelicals with their historical brothers and sisters in Christ. He gives several reasons why Evangelicals need this re-acquaintance: for freedom and wisdom; to help understand the New Testament; because of much misinformation and past misrepresentation; for help in apologetics; for spiritual nurture. From this introduction he spends the next five chapters exploring Ignatius of Antioch, The Letter to Diognetus, Origen, Cyprian and Ambrose, Basil of Caesarea and St. Patrick. The final chapter is Haykin's account concerning how he came to love and study the Church Fathers. He also includes an appendix with additional recommendations for further reading and another appendix reflecting Jaroslav Pelikan's The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600) - an important work in this field.
This is an excellent introduction to this much neglected area of Evangelical study. Haykin's book is very informative without being an arduous read. His style is clear and enjoyable. It's also short. Now, I'm not one to shy away from large books - the bigger the book, the better! But, any introductory book on a subject ought to be short. It's an introduction. Introductory works serve to provide the basics necessary for further study while also whetting the appetite for more. Rediscovering the Church Fathers does this.
Evangelicals everywhere ought to read this book and acquaint themselves with our shared Christian heritage. A fuller historical identity will enrich your faith, enliven your heart and encourage your mind.
NOTE: In accordance with the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission I would like to state that I received a complementary copy of the aforementioned text for the purposes of review. I was not required to furnish a positive review.